Thank you Saiswaroopa Iyer for writing this guest post and getting me more intrigued to understand the story of Avishi, the protaganist of her latest novel of the same name.
Saiswaroopa’s response to my query below :
Your novels are based on strong female characters. But, where and how did you find Abhaya and Avishi? How are they similar or different to Wonder Woman or any other super woman of today?
Strong female characters are something I relate to very closely. Perhaps, it was the result of having everyday ‘wonder women’ around me :). My mother, aunts, grandmothers, each of them left their influence on me in the way they handled tough situations. Each of them had their own unique strengths that made me stop and wonder as a child, as an adolescent and as a woman.
My first brush with strong voiced women in our scriptures was when I chanced to read about the true Shakuntala and Savitri from KM Ganguli’s unabridged Mahabharata. The popular narratives in Cinema as well as reinterpretations had made both these women appear much softer than they actually were! That was when I began to explore the unabridged texts and dwelt more on the feminine side of our ancient past cautiously disregarding the medieval and modern interpretations. These were the women who created history and the more I read, the more I realised that the conventional medieval/modern versions, burdened with eighteenth century baggage did very less justice to what they truly stood for.
Abhaya was a creative character that I imagined as one of the 16,100 women believed to be imprisoned by Narakasura. I could not picture any of them as mute dependants of Lord Krishna. As a result, Abhaya developed as a strong personal mirror image of my own curiosity about the times of Mahabharata. Her adventures and love for Krishna aside, she represented an evolving woman of those times whose world view and ideals shaped up as a result of continuous inquiry and discovery instead of static ideals.
Avishi on the other hand was a discovery I made while trying to work on a minor scene of Abhaya that sought to highlight a female warrior to inspire my protagonist. Vishpala, the Rig Vedic female warrior who was the basis of Avishi opened a more intriguing world of gender parity in my journey. She belonged to an age where gender biases were unheard of and presence of women was pervasive in all spheres of life from combative sciences to contemplative philosophy.
If I were to see the common strengths in both my protagonists as well as in other heroines of our past, their feminine strength was strongly coupled with their larger role. Both believe in going beyond just asking ‘tough questions’ and finding the solution (and thereby starting a new journey of discovery altogether). This rooted inclusivity in their thought process sets them apart from the conventional modern heroines.
It is a little too late in life that an ardent reader like me discovered the magic of Shakespeare. And now that I am reading about him, I am so excited that I want to read them all, to understand them all. Thankfully, the internet and Youtube is loaded with Shakespeare. It is a fascinating world. His dialogues are amazing and relevant even today. Many of the idioms and phrases and even words we use can be attributed to the great Bard. And another fallout is, I see glimpses of these classics is some of the most mundane movies. Shakespeare is very much dominant and kicking it in Bollywood.
- Karz / Om Shanti Om – Inspired from Hamlet. The base story of Simi Garewal killing her husband to get to his inheritance is the first clue. Nobody knows about it. No one believes Rishi Kapoor when he says Simi Garewal killed him. Rishi Kapoor’s reincarnation is only slightly more inspired by Hamlet’s father’s ghost who tells him that his mother in connivance with his brother has killed him. Then there is the play where Rishi re-enacts how he died and then they focus on Simi’s face to see if she is guilt-ridden. It is all Hamlet there. For Malayalam movie fans, revisit ‘No.20 Madras Mail’. Strip off the antics of a drunken Mohanlal and Mammooty-emulating Mohanlal to discover Soman’s guilt. The core of the murder theory is the same.
- Angoor – This great comedy starring Sanjeev Kapoor and Deven Verma in double role is a direct adaptation of ‘The Comedy of Errors’. In fact, they even declare it at the beginning of the movie. But the movie has been Indianised turning it into an evergreen classic.
- Baghbaan / Swarg – King Lear abdicates his kingdom and distributes it among all his children except one who is a little less favoured for being honest. The King realises his error of judgement when he is shunted between the children whom he had endowed with his riches. He is finally rescued by the less favoured child and a knight whom King Lear had dismissed earlier. See the similarities with Baghbaan. Amitabh and Hema Malini are shunted between the children but finally is happy with Salman Khan who is an orphan helped by Amitabh. Similarly, in Swarg, Govinda is the knight who helps Rajesh Khanna and his less favoured child is Juhi Chawla here. Of course, both movies have a lot of Bollywood masala added to Indianise it.
- Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak(QSQT) – The classic tale of lovers belonging to two feuding families has been done and redone many times in Bollywood. However, QSQT is one of the best adaptations. But, I just hate the ending when the lovers die. The movie is through and through Romeo and Juliet with a bit of honour killing thrown in to Indianise it. Think of Ek Duje Ke Liye which is feuding families over something as trivial as languages. Also all Hindi movies where the families are against their children marrying. This must cover almost 70% of Bollywood movies.
For this last post in the October #writetribeproblogger challenge, I stick to the prompt of ‘Heartprints’. My short story ended in the previous post but I think I can make it a lot more better with some rework.
Thank you everyone who liked, shared and commented on the posts in October. It has been the wind beneath my wings to attempt a longer form of story writing. Life in general keeps getting into the way when I have to focus on writing a story. This has kept me from writing to contests or explore different ways of writing. I was hoping to participate in the Nanowrimo this year. But again, some deadlines at the end of November keeps me away. Continue reading